Thank you for joining me on this solemn occasion.
Before we begin, please don your ceremonial black shroud and dramatically lengthy weeping veil—lace handkerchiefs out, ladies!—as we commemorate the 12th anniversary of the death of gymnastics.
Goodbye, old friend.
The year was 2006, and an open-ended scoring system had broken out across the continent, engulfing community after community in death, famine, devastation, and a war that pitted brother against brother. Whole cities were ravaged by the idea of having to manage a difficulty score and an execution score (TWO NUMBERS MY BRAIN COULD NEVER), and orphan children wailed at the lack of perfect 10.000s, which had definitely been attainable right up until that moment.
Doomsday predictions that the elimination of the 10 would result in hyenas picking apart the desiccated remains of a once-regal sport proved—of course—entirely correct. Having been continuously perfect from 1950-2005, gymnastics was instantly ruined and the sport promptly canceled following the installation of known non-blonde Vanessa Ferrari as world champion, even after falling on beam and having kneecaps. That gentle doe gymnastics could never survive such a hellscape, and nothing good ever occurred again.
But how could such a thing have come to pass? Let us travel back to the year 2006 to find out.
Matt, Christine, and Mitch greet us with the news that meet-favorite Chellsie Memmel has withdrawn from the all-around final with a shoulder injury, so everything is already just terrible. Enjoy your podium of moldy leftovers. This is the worst year.
No one knows how Memmel’s shoulder got injured. Do 50 more jams.
Memmel’s absence means the status of favorite defaults to Vanessa Ferrari even though she excels at…[whispers, vomits]…tumbling. But this cannot be! The open code of points will be the death of us all! How is she not Khorkina!
Meanwhile, Matt and company inform us that MDHRIANDFKLWD BETH TWEDDLE LKSJDLKJSDLKSJFLKS because of neutral. Rule: Homerism is fine when British people do it and repulsive when Americans do it. Just deal. It mostly has to do with not being a dick about it.
We’re reliably informed that as an old hag of 21, Beth’s medal chances won’t come around many more times, so she better take advantage of this one. She certainly won’t still be competing in 2012 because by then she’ll have long since been married off to the elder Mr. Quigley in order to preserve the line of descent and keep Brithbry House in the family name.
With the gymnasts lining up for introduction, we meet the #3 qualifier into the final, Jana Bieger.
Actually, let’s not be so casual. Matt appropriately uses Bieger’s full and official FIG name: “There’s the…uh…gymnast from the USA…is that…is that Priess there?”
Christine is able tell us that this is, in fact, not Ashley Priess but a human gymnast by the name of Jana Bieger.
Doesn’t ring a bell.
You’ll come to see that a theme of this broadcast is how much the BBC trio is demoralized by the very idea of Jana Bieger. They’re just like, “GET THIS OUT OF HERE.”
Anyway, once Christine finishes pretending to enjoy looking at a child, she predicts that Lais Souza will medal even though Souza has already pulled out of the meet, which is the most 2006 Worlds thing ever to happen.
“I think she might surpri…”
“…annnnnd she’s gone. Who’s left?”
“Just Jana Bieger.”
“………………which one is that…again?”
You’ve met her…so many times.
Souza will be replaced in the final by a little nobody named Elyse Hippity-Hopps or something, whom we’ll never hear from again.
It’s finally time for everyone to march out, so we get to play a fun new game called Who Here Has Been Indicted: Home Edition. I spot Debbie Van Horn!
Before the meet begins, a note about 2006: it was RIL bad.
Just…not good. There are lean years sometimes, and 2006 was one of them. Liukin and Memmel were hurt, China was all about the specialists, and Russia was a massive catastrophe in every way, which meant we were left with a couple Sturdy-Gurdys, a handful of random gorgeous heartbreakers, and some super top all-arounders like Izbasa and Tweddle, known for how very four-event they were, loving all the events equally. Can’t wait to do all four pieces.
It was going to be a rough final regardless.
Significant four-event lover Oksana Chusovitina is also here, somehow managing to drag herself out of her four-person Willy-Wonka-Grandparents bed despite her disgusting age of 31. Time to die.
Chuso certainly won’t make it much longer before the grim throes of death take her. But do not weep for her. She has lived a full life and seen many things. I mean, she has a child. So, female duty complete. You are now worthless. Sit on a stump and rot.
At this point, a parrot is casually murdered in the crowd, which means it’s time to begin the warmup, I think. Pavlova is off being perfect on beam, so everything will go fine in the meet.
The warmup is almost instantly interrupted by a random fit of Beth Tourette’s from the commentary crew. This will happen from time to time. Just get used to it. In the midst of an otherwise normal sentence, they’ll be overcome by a need to go, “AHHH BETH GET IT QUEEN SQUAAAAAAKHHHHHH.” Don’t worry about it.
Mitch also wants us to look out for Krasniatskaya, who is not a living person. You mean Krasnianska, and also that’s Daria Zgoba. Otherwise, nailed it.
Oh, I miss Mitch so much. His infectiously genuine joy at the sight of good gymnastics was not a common trait in gymnastics commentators.
So, it’s still the warmup for some reason and Mitch and Christine are running out of topics to vamp about, yet we still know this world feed will end up showing 1100 more routines than NBC would ever. I also appreciate how they have not once attempted to tell us how difficult it will be for our stupid bird minds to comprehend numbers now that we’re expected to count to 17 instead of 10.
BUT WHO COULD EVER. I ONLY REACHED 12 THEN DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL.
Actual routines now! Krasniatskatayayakaskaya goes on beam and is too Ukrainian to function, performing a moving Gutsu tribute.
We now meet a small baby gerbil named Vanessa Ferrari rocking a sleeveless leo. At this point, she had not yet reached peak shoulder cutout (formal occasions only). I have a viscerally negative reaction to sleeveless leos in competition, but I’m trying to get away from that because they do seem way more comfortable. The normal competition leo is a preposterously impractical and stupid garment. “I want my butt basically hanging out but also long sleeves because brrrrrrrrrr only on the top.”
“Well, here we go with a real hopeful.” GET OUT DARIA ZGOBA.
Ferrari vaults a DTY, and it’s fine, which means she’s the winner. 2006. I’m mostly just enjoying the PA announcer subsequently shouting “Holy Dykes” at us from the background.
Ashley Priess is not Jana Bieger, you guys. In case you were still confused. See, they’re both in the same shot. PROOF.
I SOLVED THE MYSTERY.
“Shot of the Americans…not communicating at this moment.”
But then how will we know if they’re best friends???? The only reason I watch this sport is to see who is best friends with each other and see if anyone overcame any childhood obstacles. What are scores?
And now it’s Jana Bieger on vault.
Zhou Zhuoru is taking us on a trip back to China’s hot pink years.
NASTIA STOLE THEIR LEO COMPOSITION YOU GUYS SHE SAW THEM AT WORLDS AND THEN STOLE IT FOR THE OLYMPICS.
Also, Steliana Nistor has been strangled by a blue snake. RIP.
Speaking of RIP, me watching Nistor’s DTY. This vault can be found in the code of points under Group 6: Abominations, Paseka category. Mitch and Christine let us know that it’s rancid and should be credited as a tucked 1.5, while scoring -2.100. They’re not wrong.
Matt says “Hollie Dykes” while looking at Anna Pavlova (check), which means it’s time for Pavlova to go on beam. GET DEPRESSED LOLOLOLOLOL. She drops too early on her back dive to handstand, has a huge break on her L turn, and then falls on her Onodi because you will find no joy here.
Cross another contender off the list.
Sandra Izbasa is doing a bars routine, and the form is like if you got struck by lightning inside a tub of molasses, but also kind of fine? As in, COME OUT OF RETIREMENT AS A BARS SPECIALIST PLEASE. Today, this routine would have a 4.5 D, would probably break 12, and would be the #2-scoring bars routine in Romania.
Holy Dykes is up on beam now, and she’s so extended and lovely that it forces Christine to use the word “supple” two separate times, which ruins everything. The problem with the word supple is that it seems like a combination of supper and nipple. Like a boob sitting on a tureen of mashed potatoes. Splounch.
Anyway, apparently Australia has “a very good selection process.”
Up next on bars, we have Isabelle “this is a very interesting gymnast” Severino. It sure is. Her Gienger is awesome, and then she falls on a clear hip hecht to high bar like it’s 1992. “I think they should get rid of it,” says Christine of that skill.
IT IS DONE. Now, can we get Christine to kill some other skills forever? I have a list.
And that salute was for BARS. It wasn’t even for floor or for being installed as High Priestess of Atlantis. Just bars. Bless your life.
NBD but Pang Panpan did a perfect bars routine. Go about your day. Live your life. But it happened. And it scored lower than Ferrari’s. Oh, remember back when you could miss vertical on a turn and they would give you a 9.000 execution score instead of a stabbing?
Ariella Käslin performs an Arabian on beam and it…OMG IT’S BETH YOU GUYS BETTTTTHHHHHHHHHHH. She vaults a 1.5 with a hop forward and WORLD VAULT CHAMPION BETH TWEDDLE.
Christine is now telling us how costly it is to fall in the women’s all around final. So yeah, about that…
The second rotation opens with leader Holy Dykes on floor, where she does a sheep jump and one of her passes is a front tuck 1/1.
I would say it was a different time, but it wasn’t. Come on, it was 2006. If you weren’t doing five passes in your floor routine, then GO HOME.
Because when I think of memorable floor, I think of throwing in random double fulls for no reason. Such tumble. Much impress.
Laura Campos’s leo is based on the idea of “What if you got kidnapped by a blood troll on Halloween night, but a leotard.”
Also, Ashley Priess’s 1.5 turn on bars is FANTASTIC. It would hold up even now. That’s why Priess was supposed to be 2008 Bars Specialist That Never Happened (TM) before she went, “Yo, I’m done…” at the beginning of 2008 and everyone was like, “Gymnasts choosing to leave elite right before the Olympics because they’re so broken and over it and discontent doesn’t seem like something we should look into…”
Hong Su Jong’s Amanar! Post-vault, Hong sits down to grab her knees in anguish like everything’s fine. No one is sure whether it’s an injury or just North Korea things.
One thing we know about Romania: “When they’re floundering everywhere else, beam you can always rely on.”
[SIGH OF NOSTALGIA]
Anyway, Izbasa’s beam is excellent, and it’s time for Beth to go on bars.
“COME ON BETH!!!!!!!!” because of more neutral.
THIS IS HER SPECIALTY WE DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THIS ONE—OH SHE JUST FELL ON A RAY AND CHRISTINE IS DEAD.
“Now, you understand why we are this way,” says Britain.
Of course. Of course in a year where Tweddle legit could have medaled in the all-around, she hits the other three events and misses on bars.
“Well, she’s in one piece.”
Are we sure though?
Because I think maybe dead.
I must take this opportunity to introduce you to Pang Panpan’s beautiful beam, where she inevitably falls on a Yang Bo. You knew. You just knew.
“That was just a jump. She shouldn’t have come off on that.”
It was a freakin’ Yang Bo, Christine. Not a star jump.
Now let’s see what the gang has to say about Jana Bieger on bars.
“This is very ragged work indeed.”
“Ragged in the middle.”
“For me, she’s just too untidy.”
“She’s always got bent legs.”
Safe from my perch in 2018, Bieger’s form seems so typical and unremarkable in every way. I think nothing of it now because of…everyone at nationals, every year. It’s sort of weird to hear it discussed like the blight of the world in retrospect, but that was A THING in 2005-2006.
Pang Panpan manspreading after falling on beam is all of us.
Hey, that blurry sleeveless dot I spy near beam is probably Chuso!
………and she falls on a wolf turn.
Wow, it’s like everything that happens in gymnastics can be traced back to Chuso somehow. She’s our Charlemagne.
“But that…that’s a difficult spin down in the crouch position!”
“That looks incredibly difficult!”
Guys. Guys. Stop. I’m in tears.
Skip ahead to 2018 and every single Little Debbie D-Score in all of gymnastics does a double wolf turn on beam because it’s the easiest D-rated dance element in the entire beam code.
Now, please explain to me what Käslin’s split side 1/2 Shushunova-leg-accident even was.
Halfway through, we interrupt this broadcast with a moment of silence for the standings, which have Beth Tweddle in 13th and Vanessa Ferrari “in pole position.”
Ha ha ha.
Like a car thing.
I definitely get it…?
In the rotation break, we get to enjoy Matt and Christine plow their way through the Seven Stages of Gymnastics Grief over Beth. They’re currently at “Where would she have placed without a fall?” which comes right after denial and right before “It’s not even about the medals, really.” We know this stage well.
Meet in summary: “We’ve had a lot of mistakes.”
Leading off the third rotation, Priess shows a pretty nice beam routine that Christine was ready to hate because of trashy American chicken nuggets with their potato form, but she actually kind of liked it in the end.
“She’s rather more elegant than some of the other Americans as well.”
We didn’t know exactly how Ashley Priess’s beam was going to turn into a subtle indictment of Jana Bieger, but we knew it would.
In Daria Joura salute news, it’s still this.
But question: Why is this choreography so lame? You have Daria Joura to work with. She could definitely sell something that isn’t a dumpy Romanian choo-choo corner wiggle. But alas no…
Ariella Käslin falls on a Yurchenko 1.5 despite being, you know, a vaulter. 2006. It’s like everyone just forgot how to gymnastic.
Meanwhile, Severino is thrashing around on floor like an Adi Pop mixed tape because of “very elegant gymnast.” I’m slightly confused by the theme of this routine. I’m not sure whether it’s about feeding her body parts to a snake one-by-one, or whether she’s the snake. Or both. Clarification please.
Pang Panpan follows her with a Jackson Pollock directly connected to 2.5 to front full. Her twisting is insanely quick, which fits with her overall routine concept of “don’t step on the lava or the lava monster will get you. HIDE HIDE HIDE.”
Yes, that is Pirates of the Caribbean you hear in the background of Hong Su Jong panicking her way through a bars routine, and yes, it was already tired then. So now, don’t even think about it.
Updates: Christine has just started saying, “no” every time someone tries a spin, and the arena announcer pronounced Zhou Zhuoru as “Zoom Zoom.”
Time for Bieger on beam. Beam is my preferred event for Bieger because even though there are the knees and feet, there’s some style and compositional originality with the layout stepout to knee and the double front dismount. It’s a fun routine. Christine barfs immediately, then talks about how determined Bieger is. Whoa, slow down with the love, Christine.
Chuso time. We must discuss how Matt keeps calling her Oksana Shoes-Up-A-Tina.
Oh. Not correct.
We must also discuss Chuso’s actual tuck turn on floor, which is an entirely separate skill from the wolf turn and much more aesthetically pleasing when done in a tight tuck like that. It’s worth way less than the wolf turn in the current code (the double tuck turn is a B, the double wolf turn is a D), but I think they should both be Cs. It’s a way to wean people off the wolf.
CHUSO HAS BEEN TO FOUR OLYMPICS AND MIIIIIGGGGHHHT GET TO A FIFTH IS SHE’S STILL ALIVE. IT WILL NEVER BE MATCHED.
Now, it’s Ferrari’s turn on beam and Matt ejects an actual moan at her planche mount. Egg, why can’t you be more like Vanessa Ferrari?
So yes, Ferrari falls on her tuck full on beam, and we need to talk about it a lot.
Watching now, the fact that Ferrari falls on beam and still wins the meet barely registers as a thing. We’re used to this now because we’ve lived through many years of deserved winners of meets having major mistakes. We’ve seen Simone iffy-iffy her way through AA competitions here and there and still win without controversy because of being so much better than everyone else, which has built up our tolerance to imperfect wins.
Winning with a fall does not feel like a MASSIVE AFFRONT TO THE NATURE OF GYMNASTICS anymore because the identity of what constitutes a good gymnastics meet has changed. Those of us who have lived much more of the open-code era than we ever did the 10.0 era have a fundamentally different attitude toward falls, where a fall is not the be-all, end-all of the routine. We’ve spent enough years seeing routines where difficulty and form outweigh falls in the final standings, and we have come to accept a logic in that. It’s a more holistic approach, one that is less dependent on the performance of a single skill and rather rewards overall ability.
The major downside to that is the elimination of excitement. When results swing more toward overall ability and away from actually nailing the skills perfectly on the day, you’re more likely to know what’s going to happen before the meet begins. What’s the point of even having the meet if you already know Simone’s going to win the AA and the US is going to win the team final?
Back to the routines. I don’t miss all the L turns, at all.
Matt apologizes to us that the world feed did not show Tweddle’s beam. YOU MEAN BETH HIT BEAM AND THERE’S NO EVIDENCE? For shame.
Pang Panpan is leading the competition after three rotations, so obviously she’s about to become world champion, no doubt about it. Nothing can go wrong now.
And I enjoy that they have just taken to calling her Peng Peng for some reason. FORESHADOWING.
Daniele Hypilto gets a negative E score on bars because of late pirouettes, “but she’s got energy.” Ouch. Next you’re going to tell us she’s a hard worker with a great personality.
Before every routine, Isabelle Severino always looks like she’s on the verge of revealing her secret identity. IT WAS ME THE WHOLE TIME.
Oh, also Pang Panpan falls on a DTY because why not at this point. That’s her second fall of the meet, and she still finishes 6th. Like I said, 2006. Side note: Please don’t do that vault. You might as well just rip your kneecaps directly off. It would be more efficient.
Now, it’s our first look at Kristina Pravdina on bars, who competes an…oh…oh god…oh…gah…no…I…oof. RUSSIA. WHY. Pravdina eyerolls two cast handstands at exactly horizontal, goes over on another handstand and brushes the mat, then tries a squat-on cover up— because whatever—and then just FMLs a 1/2 turn to grab the high bar in the middle of an elite bars routine.
“A very peculiar linkage.”
Elfi’s like “SO LITTLE TALENT.”
That routine is actually history’s worst disaster, and she still scores 13.275 for it somehow. I really want to see the A/B breakdown for that because WTF?
2006 = “This routine was so problematic that we might even have to give you an execution score in the…shudder…7s.”
OMG BETH IS GOING ON FLOOR.
“A great piece of music this.” To which Mitch replies, “I’m saying nothing.”
Speaking of tremendous shade, it’s time for Jana “HERE COMES ANOTHER THUNDERING TUMBLE” Bieger.
The passes are quite solid, especially that opening DLO.
OF COURSE Bieger is already on the five-pass train.
Meanwhile, the choreography is just a Ferris Wheel impression, and that’s all there is to it. Jana and Beth look at each other and go, “Ferris Wheel?” “Ferris Wheel!”
Our commentary team has never hated anything more than this routine.
“If there were marks for great tumbling…” (there are, it’s called the score) “…she’d certainly be winning, but of course you need a little finesse as well.”
Matt: Not sure if she seems connected to the music…
Christine: [Actual cackle]
Mitch: A lot of people would agree with you there.
Oh, gym nerds, I love you so much. Never change.
Beth and Jana kind of make Vanessa Ferrari look like Vanessa Omelianchik, so we’re going to pretend this is the best floor performance in gymnastics history. Ferrari’s double double is above and beyond for 2006. She has the difficulty and the best landings and should have outscored the rest of the field (perhaps Izbasa excluded) by more than she did.
Izbasa gets to finish on vault with clearly the best DTY of the day, and she was the easily the strongest gymnast of the meet across the non-bars events, which was good enough for bronze.
“The Romanians on the whole have been disappointing, but I think [Izbasa] has looked strong.” -Official Motto of Romania, 2006-2012.
Ferrari’s floor earns the score she needs to win, but I guess we still have Ashley Priess left to go. Priess was vaguely in medal contention at this point, but in the famous words of Mitch Fenner, “Second pass, what have we got? PROBLEMS is what we’ve got.” An under-rotated 2.5 directly connected to ground-ponytail and flop forward OOB takes Priess down to 10th in the final standings.
“How will she feel now? Will she want to leave, or will she want to continue?” – Matt bringing the HEAVY Priess foreshadowing.
So there we have it. Ferrari is the world all-around champion and it’s fine. The end. 2006.
Christine is impressed that a not-so-famous country can mix it up with the Russians, Romanians, Chinese, [LONG PAUSE, SIGH] Americans.
Matt is skeptical about whether Ferrari can keep it up for years to come because she won too young. Yeah, she definitely won’t.
Also you know that fun thing where Bruno Grandi wrenches you by the arm so that he can grab your little punim like you’re actual infant?
I’m just surprised more gymnasts don’t turned to a life of arson, growing up dealing with shit like that.
But really, Matt sums up the night by announcing that the silver medal goes to “Jaga Beaver.”
And then Christine sums up the entirety of the British psyche by saying, “A great result for Beth, so disappointed.”